Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pray together, stay together


The above picture is that of the famous temple at Tirumalai dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara. Business people in India share their profits with this temple and invoke the Lord's blessings to improve business results.

Ask any investor, entrepreneur or business honcho, about what is on his/her mind, there will be one common answer: "WE ARE IN SEARCH OF THAT ONE BIG IDEA THAT WILL TRANSFORM BUSINESS RESULTS". All business wizards are perennially in search of that one big thing that will increase the scale of their business manifold. It may be a technology, a new market (like say entering the regulated North American market with a 180 day exclusivity for new generic marketing) or a new class of drugs (like the cephalosporin range of antibiotics) that will revolutionize buyer/prescribing behavior ... The intense search for the next big opportunity is what drives businesses.

The world is changing

The new and old media are having a synergistic effect on change in society. The world is integrated by communication technologies like never before. Thoughts are exchanged at lightning speed on the digital media, the web is empowering society and creating an information society, creative minds are finding fodder on the net to generate new insights and ideas, and the net effect is that it is a huge networked and communicative world. A world deep in messaging through the old and new media avenues.

This changing world is not only witnessing messaging like never before, the changing world is also moving capital from one part to another part of the world due to mutual appreciation of opportunities. A tragicomic example of this is how Koda the ex-CM of Jharkhand as part of the GREAT JHARKHAND ROBBERY invested in Liberian mines. Jharkhand is one the most backward states of India. Monies have moved from this state to finance purchasing of mines in Liberia!! Most Indians would have heard the word LIBERIA for the first time, thanks to Koda!! Just as Bofors has become a part of the Indian vocabulary, Liberia will also become a part of the common man's lexicon in India! All this information revolution is thanks to the modern digital media who are carrying messages at real time.

So where is the next big idea?

Now coming back to the haunting questions - WHERE IS THE NEXT BIG THING HAPPENING? WHAT IS THE NEXT BIG THING?! Is the answer to the above questions lying in rDNA technology based products, business of alternative healthcare products, OTC healthcare market in India, new patents, better intellectual property?? ... JUST WHERE IS THE NEXT BIG THING?

There was a time when science and technology was mystical. It was believed that science and technology is the preserve of high IQ people to appreciate, apply, and use SCI-TECH. Today thanks to the information highway, knowledge is available at the press of the button. The internet is becoming more robust and user friendly day-by-day. Information and insights are not hard to come by. So access to science and technology has improved.

WILL PATENT PROTECTION BRING IN THE NEXT BIG THING? Yes and no. Yes - because patented products will bring in some measure of monopoly product markets. But this is the era of patents. Many business and nonbusiness organizations are getting in to the patent game and becoming patent savvy. Having a patent protected market in the current world driven by messaging and product options is not a remedy for providing the next big thing. Patents will only be qualifiers in the game.

The next big thing will be based on the network

It is becoming a highly wired world. Digital, mobile, old media, human and every other type of network is busy criss-crossing messages.


When ideas, capital, information, and production systems become increasingly available, success in marketing of pharma and healthcare goods will go towards that network or team, which is best at building trust. In a world full of fickleness in terms of messaging, prescribing patterns, buying behaviours, and doubts in the minds of patients, the future belongs to teams who build trust. Companies with the best of teams - in marketing, product innovation, product manufacture, quality initiatives, and communication will win in the market place. Products or ideas or money alone will not guarantee success. There is more and more money in the pharma and healthcare market than there was in the 1970s and 1980s. There is more understanding of the pharma and healthcare market today. In fact, there is a pharma production glut. So the differentiator will come from networks and teamplay, which will make the difference in the marketplace.

Will Pfizer or any other MNC win in tomorrow's marketplace because of its products or intellectual property? Nay, tomorrow's market dominance will belong to the company with the best of teams and networking ability. Messaging, networking and teamplay will make the difference. Today, Pfizer's woes will not be solved by acquiring capacity, scale and mere financial muscle. Today, Pfizer will not rise through acquisitions, it will improve the financial picture only in the short run. New products alone will not redefine the marketing future of companies. Those who network better and build better teams will win in the marketplace. Without emphasis on teamplay and networking, only whistleblowers will gain in the market!!

Henry Ford put it very nicely:

Coming together is beginning,
Keeping together is progress,

Working together is success.

Teamwork is a complex subject. It implies coming together of people with diverse temperaments, different skill sets, from different disciplines, and attitudes who need to be integrated to create outputs in line with the set objectives. The Pfizer's whistleblower case is a classic example of bad teamwork, which has landed the company in a huge quandry. Obviously, teamwork is not easy!!

Traditionally, pharma is bad at teamwork. The traditional emphasis in pharma companies is on individuals - their behaviour and achievements. Not on teams!! This is very much different from engineering companies where it is teamplay that works.

Pharmaceutical industry, today, is losing its mystical status. Earlier, pharma companies were insulated - there was a science and technology barrier that deterred investors from coming in to the field. Today, with the media providing all information and knowledge regarding pharma products, with the reality of a contemporary integrated communication world, the available production systems, rise of the empowered patient, and general commoditization, companies can generate required business results only through teamwork and networking. Gone will be the days, where the single super MR generates all the results. In fact, it is happening today too - actually the share of contribution of teamplay and networking is high in generating the business results. This will only increase as media develop and commoditization increases.

Teamplay and networking for trust building is the next level

To chart a higher growth and raise the company to a higher level, the next big thing will not come from technology alone, or from superior products, it will require organization wide marketing approaches involving messaging, networking and teamwork for trust building. Trust is the main reason for prescribing patterns and consumption of pharma goods. For this messaging, teamwork and networking are the keys.

Teamwork is a new science

Handling business processes that are dependant on individuals who co-ordinate with each other is a different ball game from messaging, teamwork and networking. Managing teams is a great science that requires a paradigm shift in thinking and management. There are issues related to accountability, credit sharing, bonuses, and incentives that need to be looked at differently. When companies gain scale, teams count. For eg., Dr. Reddy Labs, has a S team that independently provides scientific inputs to doctors. This S team softens the ground for medical representatives to enter the market arena and win Rx from doctors. So should the MR take all the credit? This is a simple example, which demonstrates that team science is a new way of thinking.

Tomorrow's new HI TECH product launches will not depend on MR activity alone. Let us imagine, that Biocon completes its oral insulin project successfully- can it afford to launch its first-time-in-the-world oral insulin brand just through MRs?!! It will require high team play to make it successful. Teams will be required to work at the retail level, institutional level, scientific communication level, CME level, web-communication level, mobile messaging level, clinical videoconferencing level ... Pfizer and many other companies are in a muddle exactly because they are doing things in the same old way. Steven Covey has said, IF YOU KEEP DOING THINGS THE SAME WAY, YOU WILL KEEP GETTING THE SAME RESULTS!!

Pharma companies are doing the same things, while the world is achanging. New media are in. Teamworking and networking are becoming the order of the day - while all pharma companies right from Pfizer are becoming more and more individual MR (or sales representative) centric, desperate and getting blown away by whistles!! Perhaps this factor has contributed to the failure of Exubera (inhalational insulin from Pfizer).

There is a brave new world of information & knowledge sharing out there. A new way of working is required. Teamworking and networking is the need of the hour.

While teamworking and networking is a science ...

It is no doubt teamworking and networking is a science -yet there are many things beyond science in managing teams and networking operations. That is where praying helps!! It is said, the family that prays together - stays together. Praying together too is an important dimension of teambuilding! It is done in many companies.

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